Why Clooney is on top (and Depp needs to get a grip).


This was something I wrote for the Student Cinema blog at my uni (for those of you that don’t know, I’m learning to be a projectionist). As it’s been a while since I’ve put anything up here, I thought I’d transfer it over if you fancy giving it a read. It’s something I’m oddly passionate about.

George Clooney has never been one to sit back and kick his feet up. Not content with being one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, in recent years he’s also taken a step back into the less showy realms of writing, production and direction, to much acclaim. He’s the only person to have been nominated for Academy Awards in six different categories; Argo, the film he co-produced with Grant Heslov and friend Ben Affleck, won Best Picture in 2013. He has also been known to take pay cuts to get smaller films made, most notably for The Descendants, the Hawaii-set family drama for which he got a Best Actor nomination (and he’s rumoured to keep a picture of himself as Batman on his office wall as a sorry reminder of what can happen when he makes a film purely for the money).

I could say more. I could tell you that George is an advocate of gay rights, and refuses to dispel rumours about his sexuality: “I think it’s funny, but the last thing you’ll ever see me do is jump up and down, saying, ‘These are lies!’ That would be unfair and unkind to my good friends in the gay community”. I could add that he had a punch-up with David O Russell (of Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter fame) after getting fed up with the celebrated director mistreating and talking down to his crew. Or that he was arrested for taking part in a demonstration outside the Sudanese embassy to raise awareness of the escalating tensions between north and south Sudan. I could. But that would just be gilding the lily.

General loveliness aside, let’s compare his recent career trajectory to that of one of his few superstar contemporaries, Johnny Depp. While Clooney has been soaking up praise after starring in what has unanimously been described as one of the best and most technically innovative films of the year, Gravity, Depp’s wannabe-blockbuster The Lone Ranger dramatically flopped. Not only that, but when critics declared it a stinker he was arrogant enough to put it down to lazy journalism. Johnny, I love you but you’re not above criticism.

Can we get back the fearless J. Depp of Donnie Brasco, Edward Scissorhands, Benny & Joon? Heck, I’ll even take Chocolat! Instead, a quick flick through his upcoming film roster throws up some vaguely uninspiring stuff including additions to both the Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. I’m as big a fan of Cap’n Jack as the next person, but he really needs to step up his game before people get fed up with his big-budget kooky schtick.

Clooney could easily have fallen into the same trap. He could rely on his old ER fanbase, effortlessly coasting on his famous charm and good looks, snapping up the jobs with the biggest pay packet and refusing to step outside his comfort zone. To the contrary, it seems that he has one very simple ambition: to make good films. And he does. A man with passion, talent and drive? I know who I’d want to be stranded with in space.

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